â€œThe Artful Eaterâ€ is a book of anthological bits of food and history wrapped up in 18 chapters. Its interesting and potentially entertaining concept, not novel, has had success in the past, and I admire Edward Behr for entering the pool to swim with the likes of M.F.K. Fisher, Toussaint-Samat, Waverly Root, and Harold McGee. Behr is a carpenter turned writer, and is the editor/author of the quarterly â€œThe Art of Eating,â€ (not to be mistaken with M.F.K. Fishers distinguished book) which began in 1986 and â€œis about the best food and wine & what they are, how they are produced, where to find themâ€¦.â€
This second edition is full of factual and alluring information and stories. Behr has taken the time to gather facts and anecdotes about prominent ingredients such as salt, sorrel, Atlantic salmon, roast beef, cream, and vanilla. I appreciate the duration of research, labor and effort a project like this takes -- part of my graduate studies focused on economic botany and I wrote many chapters on the subject. Basically, there is quite a bit of knowledge gathered and put together in the 293 pages that make up this book. However, in my opinion it lacks a personality and/or whimsy needed to captivate and entertain an audience of food enthusiasts & if you happen to be a history buff, the chapter â€œOn English and French Mustardsâ€ may enthrall you. I must admit, it was a bit tedious for me, my eyes started to glaze over and droop while trying to get through it. Although, I was tickled at patent statements such as â€œThese days quail eggsâ€¦ are a byproduct of raising quailâ€ in the â€œEggsâ€ chapter. Tickles aside -- good info, eclectic ingredient topicsâ€¦ grand effort and scale of material.
Since it is written closely in the form of a research paper or thesis, I would have appreciated a more extensive reference section & or more consistent citation within and between chapters. As I was reading, there were times when I cocked my head and gave a â€œhmmâ€¦.â€ It would have helped to know the source of the particulars. I did appreciate the few recipes at the end, as well as the â€œSources of Supplyâ€ section.
As an investigation, this is a good work. I learned much I did not know.